Back around the turn of the millennium, I was invited one day to sing for the first time the Mass of the Dedication of a Church (Introit: Terribilis est locus iste), at a solemn Mass on the anniversary of a parish run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. It was the first time I had ever paid attention to these Propers. The Mass was sublime. The emphasis on the beauty of the house of God, the rich theological content of the prayers and readings, surpassed the imagination of mere mortals. Clearly the Holy Spirit was as active here as He was everywhere in the formation of the ancient liturgy.

Experiences like this, repeated over the years too many times to count, have shown me that everything in the old rite is more poetic, more symbolically rich, more enticing and satisfying to the God-thirsting soul. The introits are beautifully apt, announcing the day’s principal mystery or commemoration, but they are never didactic exercises. There is no need for a mini-homily at the start (as so often happens in the Novus Ordo); we are gently educated by the poetry of the psalms, placed in between the Aufer a nobis—an indispensable prayer of humility and trust in divine help, and a perfect formulation of the central intention of our worship!—and the Kyrie eleison, a ninefold pleading for divine mercy.

The ceremonies at that Mass, too, moved me more deeply than usual. I remember noticing several things for the first time. (Isn’t it often like this at the old liturgy? There is always more to notice, more to learn.) I saw that during the chanting of the Gospel by the deacon, the priest at the altar turned to bow to the tabernacle every time the Holy Name was mentioned.

Praise the Lord

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